Passive House. Passive, but expensive.

Article about Passive house:

Beyond Fossil Fuels
Can We Build in a Brighter Shade of Green?

WHEN Barbara Landau, an environmental and land-use lawyer in suburban Boston, was shopping for insurance on the energy-efficient home she and her husband were building in the woods just outside of town here, she was routinely asked what sort of furnace the home would have.

“None,” she replied.

Several insurers declined coverage.

Passive House. Passive, but expensive.

The City Within the City

The City Within the City

A + U, Tokyo, Special Issue, November 1977, pages 69-152. Reprinted in: Architectural Design, volume 54 (1984), Jul/Aug pages 70-105. Also in: Léon Krier: Houses, Palaces, Cities, Demetri Porphyrios, editor, Academy Publications, London, 1984. With added sections from “The Cities Within the City II”, Architectural Design, volume 49 (1979), Jan pages 18-32; and “The Reconstruction of the European City”, Architectural Design, volume 54 (1984), Nov/Dec pages 16-22.


A city can only be reconstructed in the form of urban quarters. A large or a small city can only be reorganized as a large or a small number of urban quarters; as a federation of autonomous quarters. Each quarter must have its own center, periphery and limit. Each quarter must be A CITY WITHIN A CITY. The quarter must integrate all daily functions of urban life (dwelling, working, leisure) within a territory dimensioned on the basis of the comfort of a walking person; not exceeding 35 hectares (80 acres) in surface and 15,000 inhabitants. Tiredness sets a natural limit to what a human being is prepared to walk daily and this limit has taught mankind all through history the size of rural or urban communities.

There seems, on the contrary, to be no natural limit to the size of a functional zone; the boredom which befalls man while driving a car has made him forget any sense of physical limit.

The form of the city and of its public spaces cannot be a matter of personal experiment. The city and its public spaces can only be built in the form of streets, squares, and quarters of familiar dimensions and character, based on the local tradition. Whether of grand metropolitan or intimate local quality, the streets and squares must present a permanent and familiar character. Their dimensions and proportions must be those of the best and most beautiful pre-industrial cities, obtained from and verified by a millennia-old culture.

After the crimes committed against the cities and landscapes of Europe over the last few decades in the name of progress and efficiency, the professions of architecture and engineering deserve nothing but the contempt of the population. The function of architecture is not, and never has been, to take one’s breath away: it exists to create a built environment which is habitable, agreeable, beautiful, elegant and solid.

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The City Within the City

Design pays

Or A Tale of Two Houses

Here’s an example of poor design not paying and following that, an example of good design paying off.

The projects are in many ways opposites of each other: one is large (over sized, really at five bedrooms, four bathrooms) and the other is small (just one bedroom, one bath), one is cheaply built, the other has been built to last a long time. One is built in the suburbs, another built in the city. One is built to a certain standard and would look the same in Seattle or in Florida, the other is connected to its community is very particularized to its environment. One is an energy hog and one is sustainable. One is (probably) not designed by an Architect, the other is designed by a very capable one. Those sets of factors are connected.

Moral of the story: Hire an Architect! [In the interests of full disclosure, I’ll note that–yes, you guessed it–I am an Architect!]

Continue reading “Design pays”

Design pays


This reminds me of a design problem described by my first year design studio instructor–which was to design a bottle opener. The best design: Someone brought in a can with a pull tab. Think Schumpeter and creative destruction!

I’d also note the decreasing levels of abstraction in the software I use: Revit, where you work in a space that is WYSIWYG (when looking at a sheet) and when looking at the model, you see it in 3D, vs. Autocrap, where, until a recent version, line-weight was keyed into line color for the 2D views, (Yuck!) & and 3D was basically unworkable. I am convinced the next interface for architects will be a pen that you can draw with on a screen that is also your monitor, and it will be about 50″ diag., at a resolution of something like 10,000 x 6,000. It will look like a desk, and to use it, you will have to keep it clear of papers!

Coming Soon: Nothing Between You and Your Machine

IT has been more than two decades since Scotty tried to use a computer mouse as a microphone to control a Macintosh in “Star Trek IV.”
Since then, personal computer users have continued to live under the tyranny of the mice, windows, icons and pull-down menus originally invented at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center in the 1970s and popularized by Apple and Microsoft in the next decade.
Last year, however, the arrival of the Nintendo Wii and the Apple iPhone began to break down the logjam in technological innovation for the way humans interact with computers